Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Time to end corn-based ethanol production

Rep. Marcy Kaptur has, for years, pushed ethanol fuel on us and the nation. She's advocated its use and voted to mandate it for our gas supply. But new research shows it's not anywhere near as 'good' or as environmentally friendly as she claims it to be.

Mark Perry, a University of Michigan - Flint economics professor and scholar at The American Enterprise Institute, wrote an interesting column called "Production of Corn Ethanol as an Automotive Fuel Source Should Cease," (MLive, January 16, 2013). The National Center for Policy Analysis provides this summary:

The Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) justification for mandating an increase in E15 production, a fuel comprised of 15 percent ethanol and 85 percent gasoline, is weaker than ever, says Mark Perry, a University of Michigan at Flint economics professor.

* A recent American Automobile Association report found that using E15 causes accelerated engine wear.
* Accelerated wear on the internal parts of a combustion engine results in costly repairs for consumers who believed they were being environmentally-friendly.
* Ethanol produced from corn is the only widely-available biofuel that meets federal guidelines.

Enacted in 2005, the Renewable Fuel Standard requires increasing ethanol production capacities and predicted that the biofuel industry would be booming by now.

* As a fuel source, corn ethanol is far less efficient than gasoline, providing 27 percent lower fuel economy than traditional gasoline.
* After a 51-cent-per-gallon tax credit companies receive to produce ethanol, it still costs 70 cents more per gallon.
* With 40 percent of the U.S. corn crop being used to produce ethanol, retail food prices for the average American have increased.

While the ethanol lobby has claimed that the production of ethanol will move America toward energy independence, the National Research Council found that it requires significantly more water in its production process than gasoline, as well as requiring large amounts of fertilizers and pesticides that deplete water and soil quality.

* The EPA refuses to rescind the ethanol mandate and has set production to increase from 13 billion gallons this year to 36 billion gallons by 2022.
* By 2022, the nation's entire corn crop would be devoted to ethanol production.
* Advances in cellulosic ethanol, which is made from wood chips, switchgrass and other sources, could reduce demand for corn.

For these reasons and more, I agree with Perry. Now the question goes to the politicians. Will they 'trust the science' or keep pushing an agenda that is rooted more in politics and control than the actual environment?

My bet is on the latter.


James said...

Corn-based ethanol is one reason Iowa voted for Obama in the last election. It's all about politics in this issue.

Timothy W Higgins said...

Let's see ...
Aside from the increased engine wear and reduced fuel economy that you cite, ethanol in fact does more harm in polluting water in its creation than it reduces as a substitute for fossil fuel. Meanwhile, its benefit to overall oil use is negligible in comparison to the harm it does by driving up pricing on everything from high fructose corn syrup to animal feed.

Let's let the ethanol lobby defend its production increases and subsidies by justifying the taking of food from starving children and the elderly. Such tactics always worked when demonizing Republicans.

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